Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Japan, Logic Uses You

I figured the best way to spend my winter break was shutting myself in my room and slaving away in Photoshop to bring you another anime wallpaper. Ok, maybe the shutting myself in the room part is a bit exaggerated, but I think I've spent more time in my life on Photoshop than all the time I spent watching TV.

The wallpaper is based on the anime series Macross Frontier, an awesome mech/sci-fi/drama anime that I found surprisingly good. I made it inspired by the Lion OP sequence for the series, which is among my favorite OP songs of the decade. Don't try to make too much sense of all the nonsensical things in the wall; trying to put logic to anime is like trying to put a cat to water. They don't mix.

They really should make all those 'In Soviet Russia...' reverse-logic jokes about Japan. Last time I checked, Japan is the only nation that worships a giant 18 foot high robot. In Japan, giant robot drives you!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chang's List of Favorite Animes of the Decade

More lists, I know. But it's hard to resist, being close to the end of the decade, and I sincerely doubt any new anime that comes out in the next two seasons or so will change my mind. Since I haven't watched every single anime, I can't make a 'best of' list, but I can make a list of ones that have stood out ever since I got sucked into the wacky cell-shaded world of Anime. Of course, this list to totally biased. Hence why it's "Chang's List", not "BESTANIMUSOFTHEDECADE...PERIOD". So take it as it is. Now, in no particular order:

Favorite Comedy: Seto No Hanayome (2007) - Guy marries mermaid, hijinks ensue. Oh, and said mermaid is part of a merman Yakuza family, who is not too happy their heiress has married him. More hijinks ensue. Insert a character based on Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator, and you have comedy gold. This is the reason why I love you Japan; your parodies are hilarious.

Favorite Slice-of-Life: ARIA (2005-2008) - ARIA the Animation, ARIA the Natural, and ARIA the Origination all exemplify the best quality of the slice-of-life genre: Compelling characters and easygoing atmosphere. There are more interesting, faster-paced slice-of-life animes out there like Ichigo Mashimaro, but what made the ARIA series stand out was way it enveloped you in its warm, magical world and told a beautiful story at the same time. From the music, art style, characters, to the plot, there's a lot to love about the world of ARIA.

Favorite Sci-Fi/Action: Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002) - This series defines the genre of 'futuristic thriller'. There's a reason why the Wachowski brothers were inspired by the Ghost in the Shell movie in making The Matrix, and the first season of the anime doesn't disappoint either. I have yet to encounter anything else made by anybody, East or West, that has managed to combine philosophical questions on human existence with futuristic political-technological intrigue into something so compelling.

Favorite Mech/Sci-Fi: Macross Frontier (2008) - Despite the popularity of Gundam 00, the Macross series reboot Macross Frontier comes out easily as one of the best mecha anime this decade. From it's sprawling cinematic CG space battles that are breathtaking to watch, to it's unparalleled soundtrack (see above video), there's a lot to like about the series. It's truly a space opera, and it benefits from likable characters and a coherent plot, something that the Gundam series has been rather lacking in its recent iterations.

Favorite Romance/Shōjo: Aishiteruze Baby (2004) - I've only managed sit through a couple shōjo animes in the past nine years, but this one stood out for it's maturity, which is weird considering the genre is aimed at young girls. The plot, which is about a teenage playboy who has to care for his abandoned 5-year old cousin, explores social issues rather tastefully, and manages to be funny and genuinely down-to-earth at the same time. Labeling Aishiteruze Baby as a romance is a stretch, but there is a romantic plot in here. Definitely an pleasant surprise to watch.

Favorite Action/Thriller: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007) - Very enjoyable to watch, superb art direction, all with a unique premise to boot. It's one part mecha, one part sci-fi, and two parts edge-of-the-seat emotion. It's definitely a highly recommended anime to everybody, which can't be said for animes like Ghost in the Shell or Macross Frontier. There's really no other anime that has been able to harness and express emotion as well as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and it's definitely one of the most memorable animes of the 2000's. 

Favorite Japanese-High-School-Anime-Adventure: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006) - Okay, I kinda made up the genre, but The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya does defy most rules of conventional genres. It's a well-made anime following a awesomely sarcastic narrator and the supposed 'god' who befriends him, with the catch being that this 'god' is a capricious girl who's unaware of her real identity. Even the structure of the episodes is unusual, with the official order of episodes being randomized chronologically. Long story short, this anime is a refreshing respite from the other generic high-school animes this decade.

Favorite Action/Shōnen: Soul Eater (2008) - Bleach and Naruto take note; this is how you do shōnen. Besides it's fantastic artstyle and animation (among the best fight animations of the decade, no doubt), it actually has a well-written story and main characters that aren't cardboard cutouts. It's doesn't pander to the fans, which is an unfortunate trend in the genre currently, and as a result it has more substantial character development and an more dynamic plot. Stylish with an attitude, it's a shame that it's been overshadowed by its older shōnen relatives in popularity.

Favorite Anime About Music: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004) - Not related to the American alt-rocker, this anime about the rise of a rock band from the quiet halls of a Japanese high school to the glamor of the American indie rock world is a definite treat for rock fans. With many references to past rock legends, and a very fitting soundtrack, Beck hits all the right notes you'd expect. It's a musical tour of the Japanese pop/rock world, and while it starts off slow, it definitely pays off in the end.

Favorite Fantasy/Adventure: Full Metal Alchemist (2003) - Sure, the original manga is better, and yes the ending was a horrible cliff hanger (something that the sequel movie Full Metal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa still failed to resolve in any satisfactory way). But for all of its drawbacks, it was well-produced and engaging to the end, which is hard to say for similar fantasy animes such as Samurai 7. It really was true to the definition of adventure, with interesting characters and edge-of-the-seat action sequences, and that's why it entertained so well.

Honorable Mentions:
  • Black Lagoon (2006) - Japanese business man tires of the corporate world, decides to join a group of misfit guns-for-hire in the South China Seas. Definitely plus points for interesting premise, and the characters are among the more interesting ones this decade. While the action is awesome (there's a character based off of Detective Tequila from John Woo's Hard Boiled if that tells you anything), the anime got bogged down in pacing issues in some parts. 
  • Nodame Cantabile (2007) - Semi-psychotic female pianist befriends uptight musical genius seeking international glory, comedy occurs and wonderful music is made. This anime is pretty close to my heart, especially thanks to my time in an wind ensemble, and it gets bonus points for being light-hearted. However, the series is still ongoing (the finale is set to be released in January 2010), so those who can't wait to find out what happens in the end can watch the surprisingly good Japanese live-action series.
  • Ichigo Mashimaro (2005) - A slice-of-life comedy about the lives of three primary-school girls, there's a ton of charm in this series, and it is guaranteed to make your day a lot brighter. It really plucks on the nostalgic heartstrings in all of us about our younger, carefree, more innocent days. 
  • Full Metal Panic! (2002) - One of my first favorites, this definitely set the tone for mecha and action animes for years to come. The comedy spin off of the series, Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu! earned the special distinction for being one of the few American DVD sets for me to buy. With a compelling story and great action, it's a fine example of the transition in anime as a niche market in the late 90's to a global phenomenon in the early 2000's.
  • Initial D: 4th Stage (2004) - Speaking of the 90's, the Initial D series has been popular among car enthusiasts since the first season in 1998, but it wasn't until the most recent 4th season that it broke away from its shambling romantic plot and engrossed itself in what it was best at: showing the sheer adrenaline of street racing and drifting. It's unapologetic-ally pandering to drift fans, and I love it for that. Also, it has the best techno theme song ever; Dogfight is awesome.
  • Eden of the East (2009) - Japan loves making anime about the near-future, and Eden of the East is definitely among the best animes to use that motif. I've reviewed it earlier, so there's not much more to say. One thing for sure though; while Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is philosophically deeper and more exciting action-wise, Eden of the East is definitely more entertaining.
  • Noir (2001) - Another of my early favorites, this anime about the Italian mafia hasn't really aged well, but whereas many other animes have tried the girls-with-guns formula and failed, Noir remains a much beloved classic that has strong influences from anime in the 90's. 
  • Gintama (2006-Present) - A long-running series, it's over 187 episodes of slap-stick humor, parodies of Japanese culture, and hilarious gags. A comedy set in an alternate future where the aliens have taken over Edo-period Japan, it's unique setting and unique characters have taken Japan by storm. Those who want an actual plot though, might want to look somewhere else.
  • Cowboy Bebop (1999) - Not in the decade, but it has to be mentioned because this famous anime set the bar for anime for the 2000's. An undisputed classic, we talk about the anime of this decade in the shadow of Cowboy Bebop.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quck Look: Red Cliff (Chinese Version)

I must preface this review with a couple of disclaimers. First, Tony Leung (above) is one of my favorite cinema actors. Two, I also squeal with delight anytime anybody mentions John Woo in a sentence. Unless that sentence also mentions "Hollywood" or "Western." There's a reason why his most recent Hollywood efforts have been forgettable. But I'm not here to talk about Woo, I'm here to talk about his Chinese historical epic Red Cliff.

And oh my, is it epic.The battle sequences are intense, the special effects are awe-inspiring, and the action sequences are wonderfully choreographed.

That said, it's undeniably a summer blockbuster flick. The character development is sufficient, but hardly something you call satisfying. It's a solid movie, but it's hardly a movie that fits John Woo's trademark cinematic style. You'll find precious little of Woo's famed techniques and pause-burst-pause pacing here, and the plot pacing seemingly gets lost in several subplots, especially the romantic subplot near the end. As a result, the film sags noticeably when there aren't people dying or things aren't being blown up. Tony Leung does a solid job as the main lead, but he definitely isn't as dynamic as Chow Yun-Fat, who originally was supposed to play the role.

All things considered, Red Cliff is a better cinematic epic than 2004's Troy and 2005's Kingdom of Heaven, thanks to John Woo's expert hand during the battle sequences and a more cohesive plot. But like those films, Red Cliff can't compete with Lord of The Rings in terms of quality, writing, characterization, and plot. So don't watch it believing in the hype that this is "Asia's answer to Lord of the Rings". Asian cinema still has a way to go before it can match Peter Jackson's famed trilogy.

As for which version you should watch, if possible go for the Chinese version if you appreciate a more cohesive narrative. The American version is half the length of the original's 4 hours, and it cuts out almost all of the character development and political intrigue. But if you can only watch the American version (I ordered the DVDs from Hong Kong), by all means do so. It's a very solid film.

Finally, I arrive at the most important question that burns on the lips of all Hong Kong film fanatics everywhere; Are John Woo's signature doves in the film? Yup, they are. Rejoice Woo fans.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gran Turismo 5 release date CONFIRMED...not really

Man, this is getting really irritating. Even for someone who's not sacrificing carbon fiber to the Polyphony Digital gods, the constant "Did we say [insert date]? We really meant [insert later date]" is really annoying.

Anyways, date kinda confirmed. "Summer 2010" is the official word, which I put quotes around since whenever a game developer says something like that instead of an actual month, there's a very good chance it can change. I'm predicting if the date changes, the game will finally be released in the fall. The reason why I say this is because it's the end of 2009 right now, and the original predicted release date was early 2010 (Q1 2010). Pushing back the official guesstimate of the release date when the games supposed to come out in about four months only happens when there's some difficulties.

Just a friendly reminder, there were three full Forza Motorsport games since Gran Turismo 4 was launched in the US in March of 2005. By the time GT5 comes out, it would have been five years since the last game. Is this a result of the quest for perfection, or is the scope of the game getting too big to handle? We'll see if it comes out in Summer 2010.

So until then Sony fanboys, hang tight and keep on praying at the Polyphony Digital altar. Maybe the game will come out earlier if you pray hard enough. Maybe.

Friday, December 4, 2009

So, Facebook on the 360... extremely stupid. The only cool thing is that you can add people from your Facebook friends list to your Xbox Live friends list. The hitch is that you can only do that if they have already downloaded and installed the small Facebook addition on their 360...which none of my friends have. And I don't blame them, since everyone I know uses their 360 to play games instead of Facebook-stalking.

Unbeliveable, I know.

In a way, Facebook has become its own gaming platform. There are a ton of (rather shady) mini games and personality quizs floating around the social site, and then's there's "games" like Farmville and Cafe World. There's a lot of people that are happily distracted with these games, and companies have taken notice. Mark my words, there will be a Maple Story-esque MMO coming to Facebook soon. And it will be VERY popular.

Everyone is trying to integrate Facebook or Facebook-like social networking into their products. But Facebook is developing too quickly for companies to catch up. The PS3/360 Facebook addon would have been cool...a year ago. Now, there's a bunch of additional things on Facebook that both consoles can't really integrate.

The people behind Facebook and all the Facebook apps aren't stupid; it's only going to be a matter of time before we can share music clips/videos/playlists via Facebook music player, and I wouldn't be surprised to wake up tomorrow to find out that you can blog via Facebook. At this rate, Facebook will take over our Internet social lives.

As for the rest of our Internet time, Google has us covered. Hell, I'm posting from a Google blog (Blogger is owned by Google FYI). How we're going to spend time on the Internet in the near future is going to be interesting, that's for sure.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tech Predictions for 2010

Instead of having a Best Game of The Year or a List of 10 Things in 2009 That Were Hella Cool, I shall now gaze into the all-seeing crystal ball and look into the future. Let's just hope that I don't look in the wrong place and see my roommate naked or something. Ugh. Anyways, without further ado, Justin's Totally Thought-out Predictions for 2010.
  1. 2010 will be a year dominated by gaming sequels - Sequels to Gears of War, Resistance, Halo (ok maybe not a sequel, but it's close), Gran Turismo, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Splinter Cell, and Call of Duty will almost certainly coming out next year. And there isn't an original IP that looks like it will stand out from the crowd.
  2. The Wii will see a gajillion consoles - Duh.
  3. Google will release their much hyped 'Google' phone - Because they can. Headline in 2012: Google takes over the World, Bill Gates sobs.
  4. Speaking of Google, Chrome OS will not be released - Official word says late 2010, but I personally doubt it. There's some tech hurdles that need to be jumped, a highly skeptical public that needs to be convinced, and more solid-state netbooks that need to be released.
  5. Japan will make another robot for...something weird - Another duh. But I gotta have these freebies in here so this list sounds somewhat legit.
  6. The Xbox 360 will continue to be in 3rd place behind the PS3 in monthly sales - This might seem like blasphemy coming from me, but the future for the 360 isn't bright. Of course, I have a very good chance of being wrong, especially if Natal comes out in 2010. But otherwise, Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3 won't guarantee sustained dominance over the PS3 for 2010.
  7. Apple tablet announced - Cupertino has been playing around with us for so long that it's impossible to deny the existence of one without angering legions of Apple fanboys. Plus, it's guaranteed to sell like hotcakes, and it does make sense, so it's a win-win situation.
  8. More torrent trackers will bite the dust - With the departure of Mininova and Pirate Bay to more legitimate shores, it's only a matter of time before unregulated torrent trackers die off. But hey, someone can always place a tracker in Russia or China...
  9. Yahoo will be bought by someone - Yahoo's sucking right now, and they're overdue for a change in direction and focus. Either someone's going to shake up the leadership over there, or Yahoo will go the way of Earthlink into irrelevance.
  10. I will continue to make a fool out of myself on this blog - Guaranteed.
And yes, I did say hella.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DEM SPARKLIES: Kimi ni Todoke Impressions

I might as well turn this blog into a play-by-play death of my masculinity. Kimi ni Todoke is a comedy/romance unabashedly aimed at aimed all the overly romantic girls out there. And it's pretty darn good at doing that too. I lost count of how many love-struck, glassy-eyed stares there were in the first episode.

And I didn't even bother to count how many sparkle-effects I saw. They are EVERYWHERE.

It's a guilty pleasure watch for me, since I'm kind of a hopeless romantic. The story and characters so far are pretty cut and paste, but the charm is there if you can stomach some overly sugary-sweet moments. The first two episodes aren't the best, but it does seem to pick up from the third episode onwards. Overall though, not really recommendable so far unless you like shōjo stuff.

What is worth mentioning though is the scenery. Once the characters go outside, there's some real magic in the scenery. And there's some moments that look really beautiful. But being a high-school romance, almost all the action takes place in the school, which is rather depressing. Artistically that is.

That's all I got. I really just wanted to write this so I could say DEM SPARKLIES and not sound totally crazy. DEM SPARKLIES.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How CLAMP Killed My Childhood Memories

I'm going to admit that I liked watching Card Captor Sakura when I was little. No, I loved it. Compared to the other stuff in the weekday cartoon lineup back then, it wasn't mindless like Pokemon, nor was it hopelessly weird like Ultraman. For a magical girl show, it was surprisingly addicting for a 14 year old. It is one of CLAMP's well-beloved classics.

Now that I have effectively emasculated any pretensions to having an average childhood, let's get down to this; Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles has destroyed my fond childhood memories of CCS. Let this be a lesson for all media across all cultures. Don't toy with beloved old franchises. The latest Star Trek movie was superb because it didn't deface or change what made the original Star Trek stuff so popular. It simply admitted; Hey, I'm a movie. Let's pretend this all happens in a parallel universe! And nobody was the wiser.

Here comes one of my famed analogies. Buckle up. No spoilers about the ending, promise.

The ending of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles (the manga, though I'm sure the anime will have a similar ending) can best be described as the product of a thousand CCS fanfics melted together with Issac Asmiov's wildest dreams about time travel. Does that analogy make any sense? That's the point. CLAMP took several chapters to end the story, and in the end nobody knows what exactly went on, other than Sakura and Syaoran we loved in CCS have led lives after the end of CCS storyline.

And by 'interesting', I mean that in the most negative way possible. 'Disturbing' might describe it, but even that fails to describe how much logic was thrown out the window in the ending of the manga (literally). Unfortunately, CLAMP wasn't happy with a simple cameo of the CCS characters, they wanted to essentially ruin the happy, carefree, and inspiring theme of CCS. And they succeeded.

That said, the manga itself isn't bad, but you will need decent knowledge of CLAMP's other works (like CCS and xXXholic) to appreciate it. If you don't particularly care for CCS, then this is still a very good manga, especially towards the end. The art style is gorgeous, attention to detail is superb, and the plot is definitely unique and gripping. Just don't expect a clear-cut ending.

But if you loved CCS like I did, stay far away. Ignorance is bliss in this case.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quick Look: Forza 3 vs Gran Turismo 5

Forza 3 > Gran Turismo 5. There, end of quick look.

Fine, I'll do a proper look at it. Thank Sahil for this post, since I didn't want to bother writing something up on this game. Honestly, it's everything in Forza 2, but better. From the much-improved single player racing season to the multiplayer, if you're a car fanatic who likes to customize and race cars, this game will be the end of your productive life.

That said, how will it compare to GT5? Well, GT5 will sell more thanks to the fact thanks to the nostalgia factor plus the cool $60 million and 5 years of development that Polyphony Digital spent making the car models spotless. GT5 also has a leg up on the diversity of racing events, from dirt rallying to NASCAR racing, not to mention the much-trumpeted Gran Turismo TV, which will supposedly bring the wet dreams of car nerds to life.

Ugh. Horrible mental image there. Anyways, moving on.

On the other hand, Forza 3 has a community aspect that definitely won't be in GT5, with the community interface built-in from the get go in the form of the Auction House, where you can get anything from custom car liveries to replays of crazy dudes drifting down Fujimi Kaido. Plus, the physics and the tech behind the car gameplay is second to none, making racing in Forza 3 a experience. This is in stark contrast to feel of the cars in GT5, which feel a bit awkward in comparison (judging from GT Prologue).

It'll all fall down to your personal preferences in the end. I personally prefer the ability to fully customize and tune my Evo X MR, and the improved physics in Forza 3 really makes racing in that game so freaking awesome with a racing wheel. Forza 3 is a game for people who love to racing cars. Gran Turismo 5 will be a game for people who love collecting cars. Choose accordingly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Epic Aria Wallpaper For Your Desktop

Damn you blogspot. Ah well. A bigger thumbnail wouldn't do this ARIA wallpaper justice anyways. I made this with a friend over @ AnimePaper, and it's a pretty epic wall in my opinion. Go ahead and click on the thumbnail (or this link) to see the wallpaper in its full glory.

I did the background with the buildings, and my friend did the character and bird vectors. This is going to be my last wall until I finish my graduation thesis, so don't wait up for another wallpaper anytime soon. Enjoy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick Look: Modern Warfare 2

Maybe you're heard about this game, especially if you're one of the 4.7 million Americans who have bought this piece of digital testosterone on the first day of sale. They could seriously melt down the disc, bottle it, sell it as a energy drink, and nobody would be the wiser.

So is it the Video Game Masterpiece of 2009? Not quite. The single player is functionally good, but the story sucks. The ending is a huge cop-out, the controversial scene where you kill civilians is rather pointless, and the action lacks any ebb and flow.

And oh god, don't get me started on the fucking plot holes. Is this really the best you can do Infinity Ward? If Tom Clancy and Michael Bay both overdosed on LSD and had a bastardized child, it would be Modern Warfare 2's plot. Unlike the first game's story, which was compelling and exciting, it feels as if the writers were trying too hard to make something awesome happen all the time. The end result is a steaming pile of shit that is only saved by the game's superb gameplay sections.

There, rant over. Moving on, the changes that they added for multiplayer add a surprisingly pleasant amount of depth, and the co-op Spec-Ops levels a blast to play with a friend. Just for these reasons alone, it's well worth the hype. I can easily envision spending way too much time playing online, which the same can't be said for Halo 3: ODST.

There's a reason why this is the one of the two video games that I bought this year (the other being Forza 3). There's a lot of value behind the dirt-splattered box art, and if you can stand being stabbed repeatedly in your mind, the single player is somewhat fun.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PSP Go on Sale Tomorrow; World Yawns

Sony's foray into the digital download gaming market is coming out tomorrow, but I could care less. Apparently some other people aren't excited about the PSP Go either. So what will I be doing tomorrow? Doing something a lot more interesting than trying out at the PSP Go: watching grass grow at the 56th annual Grass and Wet Paint Watching Festival. I hear this year they'll actually have grass from Brazil we can watch!

I'll also rather get sunburned and jump into seawater than buy any other PSP products.

My hatred of Sony and their handling of the PSP is pretty well known. Long story short, Sony screwed over everyone (myself included) who had actually bought the old PSP by making it impossible to use games that we have already purchased on UMD on the PSP Go, all for a wonderful $250.

Mind you, that's only $50 less than a PS3 or Xbox 360, for a thing that has nowhere near the usefulness of either gaming console. I wouldn't be so harsh if they bothered to upgrade the PSP Go's media and web support, but they didn't. So what are you getting for $250? Absolutely nothing worthwhile.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick Look: Halo 3: ODST

If you liked Halo 3, you'll Like Halo 3: ODST Rise of the Abbreviations. That said, I enjoyed it and its focus on the characters. All of the cutscenes were charming, thanks to the Firefly crew voicing the main characters. I even didn't mind the slightly hammy romantic scene near the end.

Charm aside, mechanically the game is supposed to play differently than Halo 3 thanks to you being a 'ordinary' grunt instead of the Master Chief, but honestly I didn't notice a substantial difference. You'll take cover more and be more cautious, but since the game throws much fewer enemies at you your weakness are kind of subdued. So the game isn't too hard, and it feels rather short as well once you finish. You'll definitely be left wanting more once the credits hit.

ODST is a good direction for the franchise to go in, with the beautiful open-world night time exploration, and its great attempts at bringing in more character to the Halo universe. But the Halo formula is starting to wear thin a bit, and it remains to be seen how Bungie can keep the next Halo game as fresh as ODST is.

Yea. I'm done. I'm off to play Firefight for another 3 hours.

Monday, September 21, 2009

So, I heard there was a Halo anime

So you know how I was talking about the Halo anime earlier?


Anime this isn't. While the animation and art might might be anime-inspired, the writing and dialogue were clearly created by the same dudes who write all the stuff that show up on Cartoon Network. Judging from this clip, it doesn't look horrible, but Halo Legends isn't something that I'd consider quality.

Of course, this isn't a surprise to anybody. But watching this clip did fulfill my weekly quota of Master Chief punching Brutes to death.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quick Look: Eden of the East

There's anime that you watch to pass the time, and then there's anime you make time to watch. Eden of the East is definitely in the latter half of that spectrum. It's a action/thriller that made all the other shows this past summer anime season look rather half-baked and boring, and it's one of the few shows that I will unhesitatingly recommend to anyone.

And the OP song for the show was by friggen Oasis. That should tell you about how much care and effort was spent on Eden of the East.

The director for the series, Kenji Kamiyama, also directed Ghost in the Shell, and the mood is similar here. But unlike Ghost in the Shell (which got utterly dense and moody in the second season), Eden of the East never bogs down in its political-social commentary thanks to its charming characters. In fact, some people might miss all the social commentary thanks to the all the charisma that the main character Akira Takizawa seemingly generates out of nowhere.

From the first episode (from which the hilarious screenshot is posted) to the epic action-packed last episode, it's a non-stop roller coaster of intrigue. The plot and setting aren't entirely fresh, but East of Eden keeps things going through it's sheer charm and well-designed characters. With two movies in the near future, thankfully we won't be seeing the last of this charismatic series.

Hail to the King, baby.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yea, Another New iPod

But this time, this one has radio functionality, voice recording features, and a freaking camera. Why? God knows. Maybe Steve woke up one day and said; "THERE SHALL BE A CAMERA IN THE NANO, SINCE OBVIOUSLY THE NANO NEEDS THE ABILITY TO CAPTURE SHITTY FOOTAGE."

Crummy camera aside, Apple is brilliantly solidifying their grip on the portable electronic market. Why buy a full on digital camera when you're just filming some hijinks with your friends? Just pull out your iPod, which you'll have on you anyways.

A lot of the popular consumer electronics are low-cost, 'good-enough' items. Cheap items like the Acer Aspire Netbook and Flip Ultra have taken over their respective markets with their versatility and low price points. And Apple is using this strategy to aim straight for dominance. With the 16GB Nano clocking in at only $180, it's bound for success.

I don't like this, but it doesn't mean other people won't. We may be in the age of High Definition, but many of us are perfectly happy with 'Good-Enough' Definition.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obituary: My Xbox 360

Yup, my 360 bit the Three-Red-Rings-Of-Death this week. And this is my second RROD in 3 years to boot too. To top this off, the 300$ PS3 slim came out not too long ago too. So will I hang up my old and worn white 360 controller for a shiny new Dualshock 3 controller?

It's tempting, but no.

I've said this to my friends; right now, just looking at value for money, the PS3 beats out the 360. It's hard to say no to a $300 Blu-ray player/game console with a solid library of games. But just like how it's hard to say goodbye to our first car, I have too many memories invested in the stubborn white brick that's broken down on me three times.

From nights rocking out to Weezer in Rockband, to early mornings spent headshotting n00bs in CoD 4, I have a lot besides money invested in this console. I have distant friends made while playing on Xbox Live, I have roommates who are always down for that infamous 'just one more game' at 3 in the morning, and more importantly, I have many more memories waiting ahead of me on the 360.

So I'm sticking with the 360, even though right now I feel like punching Bill Gates in the face. But since he's picking up my tab for repairing my console (for the third time), I'll stick with just being angry at him. Can't turn down a free repair.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Marketing 101: A Lesson In Tastefulness


Was that enough caps for ya? No? Then the folks at whatever dumbass firm Sony has hired for marketing are calling. They want to hire you.

Sony's done enough stupid marketing for the PS3 and PSP, so I wasn't going to post about it till I actually saw this ad in person at the Americana shopping center in Glendale. I'm pretty sure the girls who DO play games would be offended by this ad, and the girl demographic that this ad is targeting could care less about gaming.

GG, Sony. May you forever have half-assed marketing so we can all laugh at your stupidity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

To Tweet or Not To Tweet

I went out with a couple of my friends the other night, and to my surprise they were talking about how stupid Twitter is. As revolutionary and mass-based Twitter is, they did a have a point. Nobody cares about what you had for lunch, or about how boring your PSYCH 112 lecture was.

At least, nobody but your stalker does.

That's a bit harsh. I guess friends and family would find your twitter interesting, but even so I'm hard pressed to care about stuff like what people post as their Facebook status. It takes a certain kind of person (namely someone who's probably 17 and loves Twilight) to have friends who demand to know every moment of your waking life. Like the person who tweeted her own pregnancy. Live. As it was happening.

I'm sorry, but what the heck was the doctor thinking? "Breathe slowly, in and out, in and out. Oh, and go ahead and tweet on your iPhone while you're doing this. It's A-OK."

On the flip side, there's interesting Twitters like Shaq's or the various Pokemon ones. So while people can have dumb tweets, there's still some very interesting ones out there. And if you want to tweet yourself? Keep it tasteful and interesting. Trust me, tweeting about how many pounds you can bench won't impress anyone.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's Not Just Pretty And Shiny, It's Actually Useful

Gizmodo finally released a review of Windows 7, about two months before it hits shelves. Feel free to look through the review if you want, but I'll tell you that the bottom line is you have to get it if you have Vista. Don't let the illusion of choice fool you; Windows 7 is almost a mandatory upgrade since companies and software will eventually stop supporting the infamous Vista OS.

Man, it feels so wrong to type the word mandatory.

To be fair, Windows 7 is an awesome OS that has been proven in the public beta. Hell, I'm thinking about upgrading from XP to Windows 7. And I love XP. Some of the features in Windows 7 are awesome, like the Windows key actually being useful for shortcuts, and the pretty and useful Aero Peek UI for the desktop. Not to mention the fact that it's light-years faster than Vista in performance.

TL;DR, Windows 7 is worth the money. Even if you feel compelled to buy it since you have Vista, there's plenty in there that will surprise you.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

On Internet Connections and Master Chief

I've been struggling with my home internet connection for the past couple weeks, which has probably single-handedly ruined my enjoyment of doing nothing over the summer. Trying to troubleshoot network problems is like trying to wrestle a angry shark while trying to weave a basket underwater while being dressed like a giant steak. You just don't know what you're doing, and you want to give up 30 seconds into doing it because it's just ridiculous.

Also, speaking of ridiculous, there's the Halo anime. I can't say that it will suck (the Halo game has spawned a number of best-selling spin-off novels), but I can't say it's going to be good either. Master Chief is hardly a compelling character, but since five of the biggest Anime production houses (Bones, Casio Entertainment, Production I.G, Studio4 C, and Toei Animation) are supposedly handling the animation, at least it'll look good. Hopefully.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Anime Quick Look: K-ON!

I was hoping that K-ON! would be Beck v2.0, or at least Beck Lite. K-ON!'s premise of four girls forming a band in high school had great potential of unfolding into something very interesting. But unfortunately, it's nowhere near the epic musical journey that Beck (the anime, not the artist mind you) was. You see the screen shot above? I wish it was more like that, and less like this:

I may sound a little harsh on the anime series that came out this past winter season (really, it isn't too bad), but it's only because I came in with a certain expectation that the anime would be about music. Instead, I found out that K-ON! is simply a wannabe Ichigo Mashimaro/Lucky Star mash-up with guitars thrown in occasionally. Heck, the main characters spend over half the show drinking tea and eating snacks.

If this was The Mild Adventures of Four Girls During Teatime, it would make sense. But I wouldn't watch it either.

Unfortunately, all of the good stuff in K-ON! is crowded out by all the moe-moe (translation: cutsy) stuff that were thrown in. Plus it doesn't help that 99% of the characters are about as two-dimensional as the art. What little plot or tension there is comes across as rather forced, or just absurd, which cements K-ON!'s status as Yet Another Generic Anime.

If there's one thing to see from K-ON!, it's the ED song and animation. K-ON! provides some safe fun and tons of moe for those who like it, but don't expect anything more.

[EDIT 1/8/10] - Ok, I was smoking something when I wrote this. Disregard most of what I said here. If you come in without any expectations, K-ON!'s a fun slice-of-life show that's really charming.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This makes me proud that I go to UCSD. Sorta.

The scientific geniuses at UCSD have been in the news a lot lately, from Wired to Engadget, with all of their inventions/crazy projects. But this one takes the cake. The researchers at UCSD have created a robot that can make facial expressions, but going beyond the Japanese robots, this one learns from the facial expressions that it makes, teaching itself how to make new facial expressions.

Yea. Creepy. UCSD is at the forefront of technological innovation. Too bad I'm not an engineering major. My tuition is just going to pay for tired old Political Science professors with horrible foreign accents. Now if you excuse me, I think I'm going to go into that corner and cry for a little bit...

Source: Engadget

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yet another Japanese video

SOUR / 日々の音色 (Hibi no Neiro) MV from Magico Nakamura on Vimeo.
But this one is tons better. The Japanese Rock/Pop/Jazz hybrid is awesome by itself (even if you don't know Japanese), but the video collage made up of various international fans via web cam is even more awesome. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Google OS FINALLY Becomes Official

Google's desire to make their own computer operating system is old, old news. But they finally officially acknowledged its existence, and the details that they have released about it so far are very interesting. Their new OS, set for release in late 2010, will strictly be for netbooks, and it will be free. Yea, that's right. Free.

Wrap your minds around that for a bit. It's like those fridge magnets that you get from real estate agents in the mail, except for your computer and infinitely more useful. Bad analogy, I know, but in our present world of expensive-ass software, it's hard to believe a whole operating system can be free. Plus, being for netbooks, Google has an opportunity to expand in a market that Microsoft has ignored for the most part.

A free OS means cheaper netbooks, which is going to be ridiculous. And knowing Google, their OS is going to challenge our pre-conceptions of what an OS should be like. I don't know about you, but I'm freaking stoked about this OS. Hey Google, want to make an OS for desktops?

Source: Wired

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Another Example of How Crazy the Japanese Are

The Vocaloid voice synthesizer program has been around for a long time, but this is the first one that I've really paid any attention to. Ignore the nauseatingly-sweet J-pop, and listen to the video for a few seconds. While it's still easy to tell that this is a voice program, and not an actual person singing, the latest Vocaloid program is still pretty darn close to the voice of the singer Megumi Nakajima (anime nerdgasm: she was Ranka's VA in Macross Frontier).

Yea, the program was based upon her voice samples, but for a program that allows you almost infinite freedom in making music, it's impressively close to actual human voice. So will these robotic voice synthesizers take over the J-pop industry in 5 years or so?

I would say no, but then again I wouldn't have predicted that the Japanese would make a 18 meter tall Gundam complete with lights and moving parts. If there's anything we can learn from this, the Japanese sure love their robots. You heard it here first folks; A Jpop-belching, maid-uniformed, 18 foot robot girl will be built in Tokyo in 2012. Believe it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pirate Bay dies, techies everywhere weep

Even though the founders of Pirate Bay lost their trial, I never would have guessed they would sell it. But they did, and of all things they sold it to a company that promises to "compensate copyright owners" for whatever is downloaded on the site.

There's some other stuff that's going to change about Pirate Bay too, but they're all unimportant. Pirate Bay as we know it is dead, since they're going legit. They have already started moving torrent trackers off of the central servers. It's the end of an era now.

The Hollywood and music industry fat cats have won. This isn't about the people who make the music and movies that are pirated, since they get paid relatively squat compared to how much money is made by the companies that own the distribution rights. And let's not mention the fact that the entertainment industry will once again see no reason to change it's outdated physical media distribution methods and its stupid DRM-protected online media.

Long story short, the rich will get richer, and we'll have one less place to grab our media. Farewell Pirate Bay, you guys were awesome when you were around.

Sources: Gizmodo Joystiq

Sunday, June 28, 2009

For ages 6 and up, even if you're 20

It's been a childhood dream to go to Legoland, and I finally went yesterday. I went with my brother's family (with all 2 nephews and the niece), and I realized how old I am, since I was easily 3 times older than the average kid there. Nothing can make you more depressed when you realize you've outgrown your favorite theme park.

That, and being kicked off the go-karts because I was too old didn't make it any better.

So I was of course, I was pleasantly bored of the place for the first couple hours. But then we hit Miniland USA, where the scale model cities (made out of Lego of course) were. Looking around at all of the little Lego people, their cars, and the massive scale model replicas of famous buildings in the US, a little something began to grow within me.

And it wasn't the burrito I had for lunch.

Fast forward a couple hours, and I was browsing the gift shop when I saw the Lego bulldozer set above. What caught my eye was not the set itself, but the tank treads that it had. All of a sudden I went into full-blown Lego constructor mode, building in my mind that battle tank I've always wanted to build. So I laid down the $43.50 for the set, and never looked back. When I got back home, I broke out my old Lego suitcase (yea, I have quite a lot from my childhood), and started constructing.

I stayed up well past 5 in the morning finishing that battle tank up. Now I'm tired as hell, my back hurts like no other, and I have stud-shaped indentations in my feet, but my 1:10 scale model Lego battle tank is AWESOME. Once I'm able to, I'll get pics of it up.

So the moral of the story? You're never too old for Legos. The other moral of the story? Don't throw me into a Lego shop and expect me to get out without draining my bank account.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pandas + Rockets = Awesomeness

Really, don't think about the name. You're not supposed to think when you're on TEH INTERTUBES anyways, so I guess I shouldn't be worried. Soon I'll change this layout (because the graphic designer in me is screaming to do something), and I'll start posting exciting and thrilling things.

Ok, I exaggerate about the posting. Or was I exaggerating about the 'exciting' and 'thrilling' part? Who knows. Like a cheap soap opera, tune in next episode to find out!